EXODUS Guitarist On ROB DUKES: 'I Don't See Another Frontman Out There Who Can Touch The Guy'

Wormwood Chronicles recently conducted an interview with EXODUS guitarist Gary Holt. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow.

Wormwood Chronicles: Now that you've been back out on tour with him, what's it like having former drummer Tom Hunting behind the kit again?

Gary Holt: You're talking about somebody who's been one of my best friends since I've been 16 or 17 years old, you know. It's awesome. Up until him leaving the band for the first time in 1989, I had never even played with another drummer! He was the first drummer I played with. It's very unusual to play for that long without having another drummer come along. It's like getting laid for the first time and never seeing another chick for years and years! (laughter) There's this musical language that he and I speak. It's always his drumming that I hear, you know?

Wormwood Chronicles: Was the South American tour his first time back? That would be a real trial by fire, if it was.

Gary Holt: No, he had done a few California dates before that. The big issue with Tom, other than being apart from the band for a while, was just coming to terms with his anxiety and its symptoms. He had to realize that that was the cause of what he's going through and not some underlying medical emergency. Once he turned that corner, he could talk himself through any episodes he had, because he knew it wasn't a heart attack. He was just having a little panic attack and he had to take a deep breath. He's been absolutely perfect so far.

Wormwood Chronicles: You're pretty confident that he will be with you right up until the end of EXODUS?

Gary Holt: I certainly hope so. I'm not the Grand Vizier who's gonna shake the eye and see the future (chuckles) but I can't see him leaving because it's awesome having him back!

Wormwood Chronicles: "Atrocity Exhibition" is the second album you've worked with Lee Altus on guitars. How has the chemistry changed from "Shovel Headed Kill Machine"?

Gary Holt: Well, the chemistry has always been there between Lee and I even when we haven't played together because he's been my friend since the days Kirk Hammett was in EXODUS. I knew Lee even before I knew Rick (Hunolt, former EXODUS guitarist) and the guys Rick replaced! He's been a close friend forever. But having him in the band for two years changes everything for the better. It's totally awesome and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wormwood Chronicles: I think of Lee being in HEATHEN and HEATHEN was a more progressive thrash band while EXODUS is more straight brutality. Is EXODUS strictly his gig now or does he have anything else going on?

Gary Holt: He still does the occasional HEATHEN thing when he has time and he's totally welcome to do that. A lot of fans are calling for him to do a new HEATHEN album and I'm all for it, I think it's great, but he is EXODUS full-time.

Wormwood Chronicles: Another fella who has improved greatly between the last two albums is Rob Dukes, your vocalist. His vocal performance on the new one is one of the most hateful and venomous that I've ever heard. How does he keep that intensity without burning himself out?

Gary Holt: You know, Rob's just a maniac. (laughs) He's just insane. A lot of people have commented on how much better he is now than on "Shovel Headed..." and I have to remind them that "Shovel Headed..." was the sound of a guy who had only been singing in his life for about four months. He came in and killed it. Now he's got a couple hundred shows under his belt and the confidence is there. He knows what he wants and he knows how to go about getting it now. Rob's this wild animal, especially live, and I can't control him! There are times when I want to, when he says something crazy and I'll go "You can't say shit like that!!" but at the same time, I don't want to control him at all. I'd rather have a few moments where he goes over the top than restrain him. I want him to be a madman.

Wormwood Chronicles: It's a fine line...

Gary Holt: He's so intense. I don't see another frontman out there who can touch the guy, you know...

Wormwood Chronicles: When he's off the stage and out of the EXODUS spotlight, is he a pussycat or is he still crazy?

Gary Holt: Ah, he's a sarcastic smart-ass New Yorker! (laughter) No different from all the other ones!

Wormwood Chronicles: Do you keep up with some of the newer thrash bands coming out? It looks like the scene is exploding again.

Gary Holt: Yeah! I'm a big fan of these younger bands that are coming out. A lot of them have played with us and they are very, very old-school thrash. FUELED BY FIRE, WARBRINGER, EVILE and even the band BONDED BY BLOOD, which I take their name as a huge compliment to us. Yeah, I think they're all awesome and super-fun to watch. And I think that they are so young that given a couple of years, they'll start to stray from being so retro and put their own stamp on things.

Wormwood Chronicles: Right now it's fun to do that old-school stuff but at some point, you can't just nick riffs from bands that are 20 years old.

Gary Holt: Yeah, I don't see that they are stealing anything, I think it is more like paying homage. But a couple of albums in, they'll start developing their own style and adding some new twists of their own. These new kids even dress the way we did in 1985, I think it's so cute! (laughs) When I run into them, I ask 'em, where do you buy your tennis shoes, because they're 1985 Nikes. They must be eBaying that stuff...

Wormwood Chronicles: What do you think the secret is to thrash's long-lasting appeal?

Gary Holt: I think the aggression and intensity and then there's a certain element of fun to it. I think some of the nu-metal and Swedish metal bands kinda tapped into that and transmitted it to the fans. Bands like THE HAUNTED were inspired by EXODUS and TESTAMENT and then got their fans into thrash..

Wormwood Chronicles: I think it has the aggression of old punk rock but there's a lot more room to do musical stuff with it.

Gary Holt: Yeah, that's the way it always was to me. I just took my love of DISCHARGE and added in a heaping dose of IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST.

Read the entire interview at Wormwood Chronicles.

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